By Isabella Fraser
Olwen Fouéré adapted Riverrun from the voice of the river ‘Life’ (Anna Livia Plurabelle) as it appears in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. This is a solo piece performed and directed by Fouéré, with sound designed and composed by Alma Kelliher and lighting designed by Stephen Dodd.
Fouéré’s show is a hypnotic, esoteric flow of movement and fragmented narrative and absolutely mesmerising. The text of Finnegans Wake is famed for its idiosyncratic use of language and by combining text from it with dance, movement, sound and physical action, Fouéré has created a work that is individual, remarkable and difficult to fully describe.
On entering the space, there is a faint sound of the wind in the background. Fouéré herself stands to the side and watches those entering. The stage is laid out with a river shaped microphone stand while the lead of the stand is shaped into the outline of a river bed; white marking fills the stage to the edge of the lead, like the bottom of a river when the water ebbs. It is simple but striking; when Fouéré, barefoot, walks over the white covering it crunches, a sound reminiscent of the shells you step on when walking over sand. Fouéré herself is dressed all in silver, like a fish but also like water.
With impressive and commanding physicality, her every movement and action is fluid and sweeping but singularly measured. Every step, every action is deliberate. Ever changing, when Fouéré stops there is complete focus and intense lighting changes highlight these changes. The lighting design is arresting and works effortlessly with Fouéré’s movement. Her voice is guttural but expressive, bringing meaning to Joyce’s linguistically challenging text. Such is the unique style of expression in this that Fouéré can appear to change sex just by a slight change in her face or movement.
This may not be a show that you will fully understand but it is a visual and aural delight: when Fouéré breathes into the mike, the sound of wind and rain follows you around the space. If you are looking for an experience rather than just a performance then this may be the perfect choice for you.
Riverrun runs 12-14, 16-17, 19-24 August at the Traverse Theatre – times vary. Running time is 1 hour, 5 mins.